Respect the Flavors: Purple Sweet Potato

One of Mochidoki’s core values is “Respect the Flavors.” In this series, we’ll explore the many ingredients and flavors featured in our mochi lineup, giving them the time, attention, and respect they deserve. 

We’re excited to introduce the beloved Purple Sweet Potato – the star ingredient of our new mochi, now available in our shop!

purple sweet potato sliced

Image courtesy of Masterclass

What is a Purple Sweet Potato?

The Purple Sweet Potato is a variety of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), a flowering plant that belongs to the morning glory family, and is considered a root tuber.

Believed to have been domesticated in the Americas more than 5,000 years ago, today there are more than 7,000 cultivated varieties of the sweet potato grown around the world from New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines to Japan, Hawaii, China, and North America.

While most Americans are familiar with the orange flesh of the more common sweet potato, the Purple Sweet Potato, as its name implies, boasts a brilliant, jewel-toned purple interior, making it a popular choice for recipes designed to delight the eyes as much as the taste buds.

The purple color is completely natural, the result of an antioxidant called anthocyanin – the same antioxidant responsible for the color of red cabbage, red wine, and purple cauliflower – and boasts multiple health benefits.

Two of the best known types of these starchy tubers are:

  • Okinawan Sweet Potatoes - originated in South America, these are also known as beni imo in Japan and as uala, or the Hawaiian Sweet Potato. They have tan/creamy white skin and a grape/purple flesh.
  • Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes – introduced and patented by a North Carolina farmer in 2006 and now grown more broadly in similar climates, these have light lavender/gray skins, and deep purple flesh.

Where Does the Purple Sweet Potato Come From?

Evidence of Purple Sweet Potato cultivation can be traced back to the Aztecs, and tales are told of the Spaniards taking the crop to the Philippines in the 1490’s followed by China. It was in the 1600s that these colorful potatoes first appeared in Okinawa, the southern island of Japan, spreading in popularity across the country before making their way to Hawaii. 

Today, Hawaii continues to be a major supplier and consumer of the Purple Sweet Potato, matched by the growing popularity of the Stokes Purple®.

What Does Purple Sweet Potato Taste Like?

It depends on the variety, but in general, the purple sweet potato has a nutty, earthy flavor. When used in desserts, it’s irresistibly rich and smooth, with hints of vanilla and malt.

baked purple sweet potato

Image courtesy of The Petite Cook

How is Purple Sweet Potato Used?

Purple sweet potatoes can, of course, be used in the same types of dishes as orange and white potatoes – because they tend to be starchier, they’re typically cooked for a bit longer than their traditional counterparts to achieve the same soft, fluffy texture.

Mashed purple sweet potatoes are a great example of how to enjoy them; and this recipe only requires four simple ingredients. 

Common in Asian cuisine, sweeter dishes such as Chinese purple sweet potato cakes and a variation on sweet potato pie are a popular way to enjoy this vibrant violet delight.

For more delicious purple sweet potato recipes click here! 

How is a Purple Sweet Potato different from Ube?

Ube and Purple Sweet Potatoes are often mistaken for each other and because the flavors are so similar, they can be easily substituted for one another in recipes. That said, they do have distinct differences: Ube is a starchy vegetable also known as a purple yam. While yams grow on vines, sweet potatoes grow underground. The skin of a Purple Sweet Potato is thin, like an Irish potato, and can be eaten, where Ube has a thick, bark-like skin.

Curious about the taste of Purple Sweet Potato mochi - or already a fan? You’ll find it online, or you can pick up some to go in our UES shop or in Soho shop.

purple sweet potato mochidoki

“Respect the Flavors” is one of Mochidoki’s Core Values – you can read about all of our Core Values here and how they apply both to our very special mochi and all the equally special people on the Mochidoki team.